The mood change at Winter Park has been obvious this week. Sunday’s 26-16 victory over the Detroit Lions put smiles back on the players’ faces and put positive spin back on the Vikings season.
The emotional swing from Week 1′s 20-3 disappointment at San Francisco to Week 2′s high is something the players would prefer to avoid, though.
“We were part of that [these last two weeks], but we gotta make sure we’re not a part of the up and down thing,” Vikings wide receiver Mike Wallace said. “You want to be the team that’s steady and getting better.
“The roller coaster is going to get you 8-8, 9-7, 7-9 [records]. … It's not going to get you to the playoffs most of the time. You might get lucky once or twice, but you want to be the team that is getting better come October, November, December. You don’t want to be the team that is up and down.”
The Vikings were one of five teams that arguably lost badly in their season opener and recovered to avoid a 0-2 start.
Cleveland lost to the New York Jets 31-10 in Week 1 and beat Tennessee 28-14 in Week 2. Tampa Bay lost to Tennessee 42-14 and then topped New Orleans 26-19. Oakland lost to Cincinnati 33-13 in their season opener and then beat Baltimore 37-33.
Jacksonville and the Vikings were the only teams held to single digits in Week 1 and both responded with 20-plus point efforts for victories. The Jaguars lost to North Carolina 20-9 and then beat Miami 23-20.
Wallace said the trick to avoiding the emotional ride is to stay grounded.
“Just every week starting fresh and getting back grounded no matter how many points you win or lose by or what kind of game you had,” he added. “Just going back to the drawing board and going back to square one and fresh that week. I think that will keep you consistent and keep getting better reach week instead of the roller coaster.”
Since 2001, the Vikings have been regular riders of the NFL’s roller coaster. They finished with 9-7, 8-8 or 7-9 records five times during this stretch, with at least 10 losses six times, and compiled only three seasons of 10-plus wins.
After two polar-opposite weeks, it’s anyone’s guess what direction this Sunday’s ride will go in with the San Diego Chargers (1-1) coming to TCF Bank Stadium.
“It’s all the same, making sure we’re on point, making sure that we understand it’s one game,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “We haven’t done anything. We cannot think that ‘Whoa, everything is great now that we’ve won one game.’ We have to have the same intensity and part of it is me talking to the team. Talking about the things that I expect, the way we go about our business and the way we prepare for the ballgame, whether it's on game day or on Saturday or Wednesday.”